MI6 looks back at the Bond legacy of writer, producer
and director Kevin McClory, who has died aged 80...
Kevin McClory (1926-2006)
29th November 2006
Kevin O'Donovan McClory was born on 8th June 1926 in Dublin,
Ireland. His motion picture career spanned screenwriting, producing
and directing, and was best known for his "rogue" Bond
production "Never Say Never Again" (1983), in which
he lured back Sean Connery to the 007 role one last time. He
died on 20th November 2006 at the age of 80.
McClory began his career in motion
pictures as a film technician at Shepperton Studios in
England, starting as an assistant
to director John Huston and boom operator on "The African
Queen" (1951) and "Moulin Rouge" (1952). He
then landed a job as Location Manager on the 1955 WWII film "The
Two major projects then followed.
John Huston promoted McClory to Assistant Director on
his 1956 epic "Moby Dick", and McClory then became
Associate Producer on "Around The World In Eighty Days" (1956)
starring David Niven - who would later play Bond in the 1967
spoof version of "Casino Royale".
Above: Kevin McClory dining with actress Shirley MacLaine
His first personal project, in which he was writer, director
and producer, followed with 1959's "The Boy And The Bridge" -
a tale about a boy who struggles to cope with the loss of his
parents during the war, heads to London, and gets wrongly accused
of murder. The film has never been broadcast on television.
In 1958, McClory, Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham collaborated
on a number of drafts for a possible film or television series
featuring Fleming's secret agent, James Bond. When the project
was scrapped, Fleming took the screenplay and turned it into
his ninth novel, "Thunderball", in 1961 - which initially
did not give either McClory or Whittingham credit. The two later
filed suit. A year before his death in 1963, Ian Fleming agreed
to an out-of-court settlement with Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham
to bring to an end the lengthy litigation surrounding the novel
"Thunderball". On Tuesday 26 November, the complex copyright
wrangles came before Mr Justice Ungoed-Thomas and in the aftermath,
walked away with an additional credit on all subsequent reprints
of the novel and, more importantly, retained the film rights.
The agreement forced future versions of the novel to be credited
as "based on a screen treatment by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham,
and Ian Fleming" - in that order.
McClory formed Bramwell Film Productions
and began rewriting the script that Jack Whittingham had
as early as 1959 (the first time, in fact, that anyone
had attempted to adapt one of Fleming's 007 novels) and
scouting the locations he needed for his film. But it was
some time during this period that McClory seemed to have
had a change of heart - rather than go head to head with
Eon, as was his original intention, McClory now seemed
to want to collaborate. In September 1964, McClory approached
Saltzman and Broccoli offering to co-produce"Thunderball" as
part of the 'official', ongoing series.
Saltzman and Broccoli quickly accepted and an
agreement was struck almost immediately. McClory pocketed 20
per cent of the
film's profits and Eon changed the caption that closed the end
credits on "Goldfinger" (1964) reading "James
Bond Will Return In Thunderball." Eon's original plan had
been to produce "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" as their next
of "Goldfinger" retained this promise. On 1 October 1964, Kinematograph
Weekly announced that "Thunderball is to be the next James
Bond film... scheduled for production in February next year."
McClory was given sole producing credit for
the adaptation, and even made a cameo appearance as the man
smoking at the Nassau Casino.
Above: Kevin McClory's cameo as "smoking man" at the Nassau
Casino in 1965's "Thunderball"
It was when production upped sticks and headed for Nassau
that Kevin McClory's real contribution to the production
was to be felt - a long time devotee of all water sports,
McClory was able to advise the production on the best
locations and was to help oversee the film's many underwater
In 1976 McClory announced he was to produce an original
James Bond film to be titled either "Warhead", "Warhead
8", or "James Bond of the Secret Service" (with
Connery amongst the screenplay contributors), but the
project immediately ran into more legal problems and
was ultimately abandoned.
Above: Kevin McClory with Bond girl
Claudine Auger on location for Thunderball
The project was taken over by American producer
Jack Schwartzman who, with the backing of Warner Bros., was able
to get "Thunderball"
remade as "Never Say Never Again" in 1983, with McClory
credited as executive producer. The film starred Sean Connery
as agent 007 in a highly-publicized return to the role after
a 12 year absence. The rogue film went head-to-head with Eon's "Octopussy" starring
Roger Moore as Bond. Eon ultimately won the box-office battle,
with Moore's official outing beating McClory's rival production
to the tune of over $12 million.
In the following years, McClory has
continued to try to make other adaptations of "Thunderball",
including most famously a project called "Warhead
2000 A.D.", that was to be made by Sony and was rumoured
to have Timothy Dalton attached to the lead role. Once
again, the McClory's hold on the "Thunderball" film
rights came into question and the project was eventually
scrapped in 1999 after Sony settled out of court with MGM/UA
ceding any rights to making a James Bond film. The timing
of the case proved to be against McClory, as Sony secured
a reciprocal agreement that
MGM would not lodge any protest over rights to Sony's new "Spider-Man" franchise.
Prior to Sony's settlement with MGM in 1999, they filed a lawsuit
against MGM claiming McClory was the co-author of the cinematic
007 and was owed fees from Danjaq and MGM for all past films.
This lawsuit was thrown out in 2000 on the ground that McClory
had waited too long to bring his claims. The Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals later affirmed this decision.
Ironically, in 2004 a Sony lead consortium acquired MGM; however,
the production and final say over everything involving the film
version of James Bond is controlled by EON Productions, Albert
R. Broccoli's production company and its parent company Danjaq,
The history and controversy surrounding the
rights and credits to "Thunderball" has been documented in a
Robert Sellers. "The Battle For Bond" will
be released in early 2007.
McCLORY, Kevin Nov. 20,
2006, peacefully, surrounded by his family; loving father of
Bianca, Siobhan, Branwell, Saoirse and Sean, husband of Elizabeth,
Brendan, Tessa, Harris, Lucas and Tara, uncle of Finoula, father-in-law
Cynthia and Larry, step grandfather of Katie and Jonathan. He
will be remembered for
his love and larger than life presence in the lives of his family
Cremation has taken place privately. A celebration of Kevin's
life will take place
at later date. "As Ned Kelly always said, 'Such is life'."
Thunderall production photos courtesy of Cinema